Carrie: Blood on the tracks

Jill Iverson as Carrie White in Carrie The Musical. 
Jill Iverson as Carrie White in Carrie The Musical. 
Photo by Laurie Etchen

In Ken Mandelbaum's indespensible Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Broadway Musical Flops, he describes the scene at the first preview of the infamous musical's New York City run, noting the mixture of good (the relationship between Carrie and her mother), the bad (just about everything else), and the ludicrous (apparently, the students at this high school live in a leather-bar world).

That short run in 1988 became the biggest flop up to that time in Broadway history. However, the musical lived on in the memory of a dedicated few who saw the good in the work and tried to bring it back for all the world to see.

That revamped version hit off Broadway in 2012, and is now on display at the New Century Theatre in downtown Minneapolis as the kick off to Minneapolis Musical Theatre's new season.

Thankfully, there's little leather on display this time. Some of the most insane moments of the original (such as a musical number about slaughtering a pig) have been jettisoned. Then again, all the efforts to make this a serious work really undermine the pulpy nature of the story.

People haven't flocked to read the novel or see the film through the decades because it is a searing treatise on bullying. They like it because the bad people get their comeuppance and it's scary.

Lawrence D. Cohen's book doesn't do the musical any favors, as it pushes Carrie offstage for long stretches as we learn of the motivations and dreams of all of the other characters. 

The thing is, it's hard to think of an audience these days who isn't at least familiar with the basic shape of the plot. We know that these characters don't have a future. Multiple ironic takes on eternal love and "what we're going to do after high school" don't really add anything except to the show's running time. 

On the upside, Michael Gore's rock-infused score provides a solid backdrop (the less said about Dean Pitchford's banal lyrics the better). The MMT cast works hard to accent the best parts of the show. Jill Iverson (as Carrie) and Lori Maxwell (as her mother, Margaret) are tops here, providing the most thrilling moments in the show whenever they share the stage.

The staging has its moments, starting with Darren T. Hensel's set, which gives us the high school after it has been burned in Carrie's fury. The effects aren't that special, and the musical seems to forget the whole "girl who can move things with her mind" side of the plot for long stretches, but the blood-soaked finale is well done.


Carrie: The Musical
Through Oct. 27
New Century Theatre, 
For tickets and more information, call 1.800.982.2787 or visit online. 

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